15- and 30-Second Spots to Be Offered

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NEW YORK ( -- In an effort to generate advertising revenue from one of the most popular features on its network, America Online will introduce streaming video ads on its AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) Buddy List on November 7.

AOL, the online division of Time Warner, will debut 15- and 30-second spots on its AIM Buddy List starting with a trailer for Elf, a New Line Cinema movie starring comedian Will Ferrell, AOL said.

120 x 60 video
The streaming video, rich-media-enabled ads feature Eyewonder technology and will run in the spot currently allotted to 120 x 60 static banner ads on top of the AIM Buddy List. The videos are displayed in the banner space rather than in a pop-up player screen.

The Buddy Video Spots will run on AIM only, not on the AOL service. Consumers often leave AIM open and running on their computer desktops for up to three hours a day, the company said.

Users will be able to stop, start, replay or enlarge the spots; some spots may allow users to zoom-in or instant message a friend.

AOL will sell the Buddy ads in morning dayparts for marketers that want to target professionals and in afternoon dayparts to reach teens and the 18- to 34-year-old demographic.

'Lean-in environment'
Ron Bernstein, vice president of interactive marketing, maintained the ads aren't intrusive. "The buddy list is different because it's a 'lean-in' environment," he said, emphasizing that AIM is not part of the AOL service -- users don't have to be subscribers to AOL to use it. AOL late last year banned pop-up advertising on the service.

"We're limiting it to two commercials per user per day, and there's a frequency cap," Mr. Bernstein said. "No user will ever see the same commercial more than once in a given day."

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